Fair to say March 23rd 2020 was a life changing day for everyone in the UK with a full national lockdown imposed, something we are still dealing with and will be for at least another 12/18 months whilst the world catches up with the vaccine programme.
March 23rd 2020 was just 15 days after I returned full-time to the UK after spending the previous 3 years working for Radio 2 in Abu Dhabi. It wasn’t my choice to return home, but having been sacked via email on Boxing Day whilst on holiday in the UK I was left with little choice having tired as best I could to continue my broadcast career in the UAE.
Sorting out your life is a complex and costly process in the UAE with rental contracts to end early, internet accounts to close, a car to sell, arrange shipping for cycles and a few other items I wanted to come home with. In total to leave the UAE properly with no debt and the ability to return for work, holiday or just have the ability to travel via the country at any time cost me over £5,000. This alongside a rather turbulent time in my personal life and fighting an illegal termination case against a semi government owned organisation stress levels were probably best described as extremely high.
The company narrowly avoided a court case calling me into the office 2 days before the case was due to heard and offered to settle for the full amount I would have been awarded by the court. Long story short, you cannot terminate an ex-pat whilst they are out of the country. Something the HR team at Abu Dhabi Media admitted in an email that they copied me in on by mistake! I believe if they had spoken with me and not ignored me totally for 2 months, despite my best efforts we could have resolved things in a much nicer, less stressful and costly way for all involved.
Turns out I had been dismissed to save costs at Radio 2, although the remaining staff had been told something different, but that’s the official reason from some very senior people within the company. So, with a nice amount of money in the bank I finally returned to the UK.
It would be very unfair to not to acknowledge a select few who had my back during an extremely tough time in the UAE. A time when you learn who are true friends and who are just people you once worked with.
Now back in the UK I had a fair amount of ‘chats’ lined up with media companies about opportunities and was confident that something would come along in a few months. I couldn’t have been more wrong, as lockdown was announced all of these ‘chats’ got put on hold and haven’t returned.
What to do now? Only one choice, get a job and quick as I wouldn’t be entitled to any help having been out of the system for 3 years and that’s only right. I jumped online and applied for two jobs one at the Post Office as a driver and one at Morrison’s as part of the new home delivery team at my local store. A very quick chat led to an offer from Morrison’s and within a week I was trained and delivering food to people across Shropshire and Wales.
What a scary time to be knocking on people’s doors, exposing yourself to the virus potentially each and every day. I’m proud of what I’ve done for the last 12 months, it doesn’t pay radio money at £10 an hour, but it has meant I’ve been able to pay all my household bills in full and on time every month. With the money left over I’ve put food on the table, had the odd bottle of red wine and learnt that the life I was living in the UAE was totally unrealistic. Home delivery has also kept me mentally and physically fit.
Being home full-time has also meant I’ve been able to look after Mum and Dad in a way that I never considered before. From buying shopping for them at the start of lockdown, to dropping parcels at the post office after Mum decided she didn’t want that thing from John Lewis, filling the back of my car with birdseed and compost for the garden, grabbing a cheap bunch of flowers for Mum, real basic stuff but massively important to keep them happy and smiling as they’ve spent 12 months not going anywhere because of shielding rules. Well, apart from the odd trip to Hospital and the Doctors – But that’s another story.
Lockdown life has also led me the Harri, a Labrador I found on a Welsh Hill farm delivering food. He was 8 weeks old and on November 1st he arrived at my home in Shropshire. I’d thought about a dog in the UAE but the climate is too harsh in my view, so decided against it. Harri has been so important for me living on your own and not having the ability to meet anyone, he’s also a reason to get up early and get outside before work. I’m sure we’ve plenty of fun adventures ahead as lockdown eases.
Career wise I’ve no idea what will happen next? I’d love to continue with my radio career but suspect that will be almost impossible in the UK. My home delivery job has taught me an awful lot about customer service, teamwork, people, problem solving, selling the company and yourself on every doorstep, getting your head down and getting the job done in some awful conditions across the winter. I didn’t expect the ever have a job where I got soaked to the skin, walked round in wet boots and had cracked bleeding fingers because of the cold weather, that was a million miles away from nice air conditioned radio studios.
The biggest life lesson I’ve learnt in the past 12 months is surround yourself with good people, your people, people you can rely on, people who will support you in ways you never thought you’d need. When the going gets tough, get stuck in, work the problem, don’t crumble or runaway and hide because that’s the easiest route to take.
2021 post lockdown I’m ready for you.